Season In Review: 2018 Athenas Volleyball

Athenas Sarah Tritschler, Jessica Lee and Phoebe Madsen celebrate after a point
Athenas Sarah Tritschler, Jessica Lee and Phoebe Madsen celebrate after a point

Written by Mike Haas CMC '79

SCIAC CHAMPS AGAIN! 

4TH CONSECUTIVE SCIAC CHAMPIONSHIP!
ATHENAS ADVANCE TO NCAA ROUND OF 32


In a year without any seniors and many first-year Athenas, the 2018 version of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas volleyball rose above the challenge to set more records and write its own chapter in the history book of CMS Volleyball.

The Athenas laid claim to the title of champions of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for the fourth-consecutive year and sixth time in their history. CMS also tied a school record with 15 SCIAC wins and won the SCIAC Postseason Tournament title for the third time in the past five years.

Overall, CMS had win streaks of nine, eight, and 10-straight matches in achieving an overall record of 27-4. This 87.1 winning percentage set the high-water mark in Athenas Volleyball history. Along the way, there were wins over nationally ranked teams including Emory, Trinity, and Texas-Tyler.

And it was remarkable that this year's team achieved such great success while having one of its most inexperienced rosters in recent history. There were no seniors in 2018 after graduating eight seniors from the 2017 national championship squad. It was a team of five juniors and seven sophomores with prior experience to go along with five newcomers.

Phoebe Madsen (JR, CMC, Santa Barbara) was the team's leader for 2018 and showed her multi-talented strengths. Returning for her third year as setter, she also played the right side as an attacker when she rotated to the front row.  Sarah Tritschler (JR, CMC, Los Altos) moved into the libero position and headed up the CMS defense. Amanda Walker (JR, Scripps, Newport Beach) played the right side and continued the CMS tradition of its opposite attacking offense. Isabelle Taylor (JR, CMC, Darien, CT) after playing a big part of the 2017 Athenas offense was sidelined for most of the season with injuries. Lina Aluzri (JR., CMC, Newport Beach) was the first defensive specialist off the bench for both her digging prowess and her serving ability.

Melanie Moore (SO, CMC, San Mateo) and Regan Dinovitz (SO, CMC, Camarillo) continued their 1-2 attack as the team's starting middle blockers with great success on both offense and defense. Lauren Widasky (SO, CMC, San Diego) and  Margot Mafra Spencer (SO, Scripps, Riverside) were two of the outside hitters in the Athenas arsenal. Jessica Lee (SO, CMC, Palo Alto) was the team's second setter in the 6-2 offense. 

Lauren Gode (SO, CMC, Loomis) who could play either the right side or on the outside missed the last half of the season to injury. Megan Dymerski (SO, HMC, Rancho Cucamonga) was another of the talented defensive specialists and specialty servers coming off the bench. Lucila Grinspan (SO., HMC, Weston, FL) and Jackie Jones (FR., CMC, San Diego) made their debuts with CMS in 2018 and earned starting spots at the outside hitter position. Linden Conrad (SO., HMC, Palm Springs) was another first-year player and saw action as the team's third middle blocker. Makenna Fall (FR., CMC, Valencia) challenged early as a libero/defensive specialist until a season-ending injury curtailed her rookie season. Melanie Williams (FR., CMC, Morgan Hill), outside hitter, also lost her first year to injury.

The season started with CMS co-hosting the Pacific Coast Classic, traveling to San Antonio, TX for the Trinity Classic and then returning to Roberts Pavilion to host the 2018 East-West Challenge. Winning nine matches over the three weekends, including come-from behind five set wins over Carthage, Brandeis, Trinity, and Texas-Tyler, highlighted the non-conference schedule.

As is typical of the short volleyball season, CMS then moved right into conference play at La Verne and once again came from behind to win in five sets. In the first of ten three-set sweeps during SCIAC action, the Athenas defeated Redlands in the conference home opener at Roberts Pavilion.

There were two more five set wins on the road at Whittier and at Chapman as CMS closed out its fourth-straight SCIAC championship with a 15-1 record. This title guaranteed the Athenas the top seed in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament and the right to host the tournament at Roberts Pavilion.

This year's tournament match-up brought La Verne back for the third meeting of the year for these two nearby opponents. After splitting the first two sets, CMS won the third set and held on 29-27 to win the fourth set and move on to the conference tournament finals for the sixth-straight year against Cal Lutheran. For the second straight year, CMS swept the Regals in three sets to earn the tournament title and also the automatic berth to the NCAA championships.

The Athenas traveled to St. Peter, Minnesota for the Gustavus Adolphus Regional and faced Augsburg (MN) in the first round.  The team was up to the challenge and swept the Auggies 3-0 to move to the Round of 32. Unfortunately, the 2018 season came to an end the following afternoon in a tough 3-1 loss to eventual regional champion Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

At the end of the championship SCIAC season, the All-Conference teams were voted on. Once again, CMS was well represented with four All-SCIAC award winners. Setter/outside Phoebe Madsen was honored as the SCIAC Player of the Year. Outside Amanda Walker and middle blocker Melanie Moore were named first-team All-Conference while libero Sarah Tritschler earned a second team selection. Also, for the second year in a row, Kurt Vlasich and his coaching staff were recognized as the Coaching Staff of the Year.                                                                                                       

Shortly before the NCAA Tournament began, the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) released its All-West Region team. Madsen was equally recognized at the regional level with the Player of the Year award. She was joined by her same teammates who achieved All-SCIAC honors (Walker, Moore, and Tritschler) on the All-Region team. Vlasich also received tribute as West Region Coach of the Year, leading the team with no seniors and several injuries to a 27-4 record, a 15-1 conference record and a top 10 ranking throughout the season.

Finally, at the national championships banquet, the All-American teams were released and that brought more honors to CMS. Madsen wrapped up her postseason accolades by being named as a first-team All-American. Walker earned third team honors, while Moore and Tritschler received honorable mention standing.

With no loss to graduation, there will be a lot of excitement coming into the 2019 season. The non-conference schedule again features three tournaments with CMS hosting the Pacific Coast Classic and then traveling to Cal Lutheran for the Cal Lu Fornia Invitational followed by a first-ever trip to St. Louis for Washington University's East to West Battle. These eleven matches are the precursor for the always exciting SCIAC schedule opening at Redlands in mid-September.

We close by again thanking you, our alumnae and friends, for your continued support throughout the years. It always is appreciated to hear from you. In addition, we want to remind you that for all of the latest information on the Athenas including our schedule and live video links, please visit our webpage. Most matches are being streamed live and all of the results from the season are posted as soon as available throughout the campaign.